If you are planning to offer bowls of fragrant forced Paperwhite Narcissus as gifts or holiday decoration (excellent for decking-the-halls combined with poinsettias and evergreens) remember to allow 3-4 weeks lead time before show time. Look for bulbs that are firm and large. Bigger is definitely better when it comes to Narcissus (and other) bulbs—the larger the bulb, the more flowering stalks it will produce.
Pour about an inch of pebbles into the bottom of a bowl at least 3” deep and 5” in diameter, then pack in as many bulbs as the bowl will accommodate, spacing the bulbs about ¼” apart. Add more pebbles around and between the bulbs to cover at least the lower 2/3 — the roots your Paperwhites will produce are strong enough to push the bulbs right out of the bowls if you don’t. Fill the bowl with water up to but not touching the bottom of the bulbs. Roots will grow down into the water, and if the bulbs are in direct contact with moisture they will rot long before they bloom.
Place the bowl in a cool, bright room, check the water level every few days, and expect flowers in about a month. To keep floppy foliage to a minimum, try this firewater formula developed by researchers at Cornell University. Start your bulbs with regular tap water. Once roots have developed and stems are about 2” tall, replace the water in the bowl with a solution of one part 80 proof liquor (rotgut gin or vodka works beautifully) to seven parts water. Use this mixture to top off your bowls as necessary for as long as they flower. Salut!